Banned Russian art squirrelled away in Uzbekistan

Nukus, Uzbekistan – This seems like the least likely place for an art collection.

This city of 230,000 lies in the middle of one of the worst man-made environmental disasters in history – the desiccation of the Aral Sea – victim of Soviet-era efforts to boost cotton production in arid Central Asia.

Nukus is the capital of Karakalpakstan, a semi-autonomous region in western Uzbekistan, where the rates of tuberculosis, anaemia, infant mortality and cancer are among the world’s highest, and where the landscape is often engulfed in toxic salt-dust storms that rise from the Aral’s exposed bottom.

And yet, a colossal, mind-boggling collection of tens-of-thousands masterpieces of Russian avant-garde art – once banned, saved from oblivion by a Quixotic artist and propelled to international fame by a woman who majored in English – has been amassed and preserved here to redefine art history. 

Muscovite artist Igor Savitsky

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